'There was excitement all over the city'

Winifred Park's Cathedral memories

Winifred Park has a lifetime of memories of the Metropolitan Cathedral – dating back to the day the foundation stone was laid in 1933.

"It is not a stained-glass roof if I may say so – it is solid lumps of coloured glass and that's why the colour is so intense," says Winifred Park, hinting at the deep well of knowledge she would draw from regularly during 16 years as a guide at the Metropolitan Cathedral.

It would not be easy to find anybody with a better appreciation of the Cathedral than Winifred – and not just for her aforementioned spell as a guide. After all, this is a woman who, on 5 June 1933, visited the site where the foundation stone had been freshly laid earlier that same day as work began on the original design by Sir Edward Lutyens.

Winifred was then eight years old and a pupil in the prep wing at Bellerive Convent School. "We learned a special hymn which had been commissioned for the opening of Christ the King Cathedral – Hail Redeemer King Divine," she remembers. "My parents were invited to the opening. It was an open-air service, and they had built this big altar with a covering. There was great excitement all over the city. They came home afterwards and said, 'We're going to take you down to see where we've been today.' We saw this big site with buildings around it because they hadn't demolished a great part of the workhouse."

Later, as a Modern Languages student at Liverpool University, Winifred would pass the former workhouse site on Brownlow Hill where work on the Lutyens crypt continued until 1941 and was completed after the war. By the time the redesigned Cathedral opened in 1967, she was the mother of three boy choristers.

"I had three boys in the Cathedral choir and one of them, William, was a soloist at the opening," she says. "I was tucked away on one of the balconies and I remember what a joyful sound it was as the organ was playing for the first time and the trumpets were blasting out.

"There was great excitement but it was just a shell of a building – the spaces were there for the chapels but none had been set up. They just had the altar up on its high position and the archbishop's throne and the altar servers. They just wanted to get it open as soon as possible so we could enjoy the experience of having a Cathedral when we had waited so long."

Winifred's own timeline of Cathedral memories also takes in Pope John Paul II's visit in 1982. "The roof was raised when he came in! In the Catholic Church we don't on the whole clap but it was so joyful."

Previously a reader at Mass for 15 years, Winifred, now 92, still comes to the Cathedral each Sunday and will be present at the Mass of Thanksgiving on 4 June. She believes she has much to give thanks for, reflecting: "Sometimes when I go in, I recall the wonderful times we've had there. It's a place of joy and prayer."